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Colloquial Syriac as Spoken in the Assyrian Levies.

Mosul: Assyrian Press, 1926 Stock Code: 141592
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First and sole contemporary edition, extremely scarce, "compiled as a guide for both British and Assyrian personnel of the Iraq Levies to acquire a colloquial knowledge of the respective languages" (introduction). The Iraq Levies (also known as the Assyrian Levies) was the first Iraqi military force formed by the British in British-controlled Iraq.

The unit was established initially in 1915 as a small mounted contingent of some 40 Arab horsemen raised by a Major J. I. Eadie of the Indian Army "from the tribes round Nasiriyah, on the Euphrates, for duty under the Intelligence Department" (Browne). By 1922 the force had expanded to a little over 6, 000 men drawn from many ethnic backgrounds, including Marsh Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, and Yezidis.

The author, Lieutenant Richard Hart MBE of the West Yorkshire Regiment, acknowledges in his introduction the assistance of the owner of the Assyrian Press in Mosul, Yosip d-Bet Qelaita, "regarded as one of the best authorities of the Syriac language"; and also that of Shain Giwergis MBE, 4th Battalion, "formerly a schoolmaster of Baz" (Hart and Giwergis both received the MBE in the 1926 Birthday Honours).

Hart's book includes guides to pronunciation and vocabulary (about 1, 000 words for conversation, common across the dialects of several Assyrian tribes, which had intermingled in the refugee camps and among service personnel), notes on Syriac grammar (in English), useful phrases, "The Musketry Course" (a description in both languages - soldiers were required to pass this each year), "Narrative", alphabets, and military terminology. The "Useful Phrases" section give insight into life in the Levies: military discipline, interaction with local people and respect for their customs, enlistments and discharges (e.g. asking about one's tribe), the orderly room (disciplinary matters including being improperly dressed in the bazaar), "The Country" (fording rivers with loaded mules etc.), health, transport (much on mules and their maintenance), entertainment and salutations, which includes the rather delightful, but no doubt practical, phrase "Tell the Agha that I am not allowed by the British Government to accept any presents and that I appreciate his kind offer".

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Square octavo (204 x 153 mm). Recent moderate brown cloth, gilt-lettered spine.


Small patch of red cloth affixed to lower board, general light signs of handling, the odd blot and smudge, some neat contemporary annotations, pest damage to top fore corner of two leaves with loss of a few letters (pp. 83-6), one or two Japanese paper repairs, yet this remains a very good copy.


Brigadier J. Gilbert Browne, "The Iraqi Levies 1915-1932", Royal United Service Institution, 1932.


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